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Calendar Year-End

Calendar Year-End Prep: The 4 C’s of Direct Mail Appeals

You may be familiar with the 4 P’s of Marketing (or in some cases, the 7 P’s of Marketing), but have you heard of the 4 C’s of Direct Mail Appeals? In this day in age, acronyms and slogans get created and tossed around everywhere, so let’s break down what BCG Connect’s 4 C’s of direct mail appeals are. The 4 C’s are used to describe what your calendar year-end direct mail appeal (and every other appeal for that matter) should aim to be, which is: Creative, Clear, Compelling, and Concise.

Calendar year-end fundraising mail will be flocking mailboxes all over the world. From year-end appeals, to renewal appeals, to acquisition mailings, it’s critical to have your appeal stand out in that crowded mailbox.

Let’s take a deeper dive into the 4 C’s of direct mail appeals to improve the effectiveness of your calendar year-end appeal:

CREATIVE: What makes your organization unique? Why should someone donate to your organization over a different organization? Having creative elements makes your message appealing and draws the recipient in. Whether it is a standard letter or a self-mailer, it’s key to have creative elements to it. What defines the creative elements that are in the appeal? Well, you should first identify and focus on your target audience(s) and know as much as possible about those people – this helps with the creative process of developing a piece that connects, communicates, and engages each segment.

CLEAR: It’s important to be clear. That’s a very general statement, so being “clear” has been broken down into three categories:

  • Clear with whom you are talking to: is your direct mail appeal segmented? Do you have variable data? Have you personalized your messaging based on who you are talking to? Being clear with whom you are talking to is so important in your direct mail appeal because you need to connect with each recipient to inspire action.
  • Clear with what you are saying: make sure every sentence that is on your direct mail appeal brings value to the piece. If you took a sentence out, would the piece still make sense? Be clear with what you are saying so the recipient understands what you are telling him/her.
  • Clear with what you want the recipient to do: a call-to-action needs to be prominent, bold, and easy to understand. Having multiple call-to-actions dilutes the main, most important goal of the piece, which should be what the call-to-action is: what do you want the recipient to do when they are done reading the piece? Are you wondering if your call-to-action is distinguishable? Take a quick glance at your appeal – if the call-to-action jumps out at you, great! If it’s difficult to figure out what you’re supposed to do, you might want to go back and review it to make sure the recipient knows what action he/she should take after reading it. 

COMPELLING: What is your story? How do you tell your story about the impact that gifts make? How do you deliver that story? Storytelling is vital to developing a compelling appeal. To tell your story, it helps to know what your donors want and why they want it. It also helps to take a step back and think from your donors’ point-of-view. Perhaps, you could think, “If I were Donor A, what would I want to read on a direct mail piece? If I were Donor B, would I want to read the same thing as Donor A?” You must make your recipient believe your story and feel as though they are an influential character in that story so they are motivated to do whatever your call-to-action is.

CONCISE: Sometimes, to get a point across, people feel as though they need to explain every minute detail. However, less can be more for a direct mail piece. A great way of determining if you are being concise is to review your copy and figure out if every sentence is important to support the point you are trying to get across, or if it’s fluff that you can remove. Get straight to the point when it is appropriate and include support when it is necessary.

Calendar year-end is an ample opportunity to reach out to your donor base with a creative, clear, compelling, and concise appeal that stands out in a crowded mailbox. How do you get an appeal to stand out? BCG Connect’s creative group can handle all of that for you!

BCG Connect has been successful in partnering with our clients to create a personalized, custom approach to their direct marketing programs, targeting the right people, with an effective message, to reach their prospective and current donors. Connect with us to learn how we can help you identify, acquire, and retain your donors!

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BCG Staff Writer
Strategic Plan

Your Strategic Annual Giving Plan: 3 Tips to Success

There are many intricacies and complexities when it comes to annual giving. Due to the strategic elements that go into annual giving, success often begins with having an organized annual giving plan. An annual giving plan helps compile short- and long-term goals, schedule yearly initiatives, allocate time effectively and efficiently, adhere to a budget, and ultimately alleviate some of the complexities that can arise.

You might be thinking, “I have all of those elements – how can I optimize my annual giving plan?”

Here are 3 tips and tricks to enhance your strategic annual giving plan:

  1. MAKE SURE YOU DRAFT A SCHEDULE: This is one of the most important aspects of an annual giving plan. It helps you lay out what the initiative is, who will be targeted, what the goal is, and the timeframe of when the initiative will be executed. This not only helps with staying on track throughout the year, but it also helps with the analysis following the campaign. Sometimes, in the grand scheme of things, it’s easy to get off track from an original plan. Having a draft schedule in place is a central resource for your team to refer back to so you can make sure that all initiatives are executed to reach your goals.
  2. ANALYZE THE PREVIOUS FISCAL YEAR’S SUCCESS AND AREAS OF IMPROVEMENT: When you look back on your campaigns and initiatives, you can analyze what worked best and what might need improvement. It’s OK if a campaign didn’t work exactly as planned, as long as you understand why it didn’t work and adjust accordingly. Some questions to help guide you with your analysis are
    • Did we have consistent branding across the organization? Was it consistent across different platforms? Was the messaging clear?
    • Did we use variable data to personalize the ask? How did we segment this? Did we segment the data properly to target the right people with the proper message?
    • What channels did we use to have an integrated campaign – direct mail, email, social media, and a telephone push? Did we leverage video through these channels? What else did we do?
    • Did we incorporate a challenge, giving day, or event? How did we promote it prior to the day and what was the follow up after?
    • Do we have the most updated data for our community, supporters, patients, alumni, family, and/or friends that we target?
    • How did we thank our donors? Did we do a second ask at the same time? Do the donors feel appreciated?
  3. ALLOCATE YOUR TIME WISELY: As the saying goes, “[There is] so much to do and so little time.” If you have ever thought or said this, you are not alone. The good news is that there are external resources that can help you and your team manage all of the moving parts, so you can focus on other initiatives at the same time. BCG Connect partners with clients to act as an extension of their team with a focus on helping clients identify, acquire, and retain their donors. Connect with us to learn more about how we can be a strategic resource for your team.

An annual giving plan can bring so much value to your organization. If you’re thinking, “Well, my year has already started so I guess we’ll have to wait until next year to develop a plan,” that’s not the case! You can develop an annual giving plan at any time because a late plan is better than no plan.

If you need a creative direct marketing partner who knows best practices in the education, healthcare, and nonprofit markets, BCG Connect is your strategic resource. For more than a decade, BCG Connect has been successful in partnering with our clients to create a personalized, custom approach to their marketing and fundraising initiatives, targeting the right people, with an effective message to reach their prospective and current donors. Connect with us to learn more!

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BCG Staff Writer
Retain Donors Through Effective Stewardship

Retain Donors Through Effective Stewardship

Retaining donors is one of the most difficult initiatives for a fundraiser to do. With more organizations asking people to support their cause or mission, there has never been a more important time to optimize donor retention strategies. One strategy that helps with donor retention is stewardship.

Instilled in people from such a young age is the concept of saying, “Thank you.” How many times have you, or someone you know, given a child something and the adult with them says, “What do you say?” and they look at you and say, “Thank you!” Probably countless times! Being a fundraising professional should encourage you to use this phrase now more than ever. Simply thanking donors and showing the impact of their donation can go an extremely long way.

Stewardship is a vital part of an annual giving plan as it helps you retain donors – if it’s not a significant piece of your plan now, this is something that you should take into deep consideration for the future.

Here are 5 stewardship tips to help retain donors:

  1. SIMPLY SAY, “THANK YOU.” A thank you can go a long way. It makes people feel that they are appreciated and when they feel appreciated, they will start to build a loyalty and sense of pride to your organization. Saying, “Thank you,” through all different platforms is a great way to show your donors how much you appreciate them.
  2. SHOW THE DONOR HIS/HER IMPACT. Infographics are a great visual tool to show donors how they made an impact. By associating the contribution – whether it be a dollar amount, time, or other resource – to the exact area(s) it impacted, people are able to say, “I helped make that happen!” Without your donors, it is impossible to reach your goals. So, when they donate, show them what they did and how they helped make the organization better.
  3. PERSONALIZE THE THANK YOU. Personalization helps build a bond between you and the donor. It makes them feel that they are special and unique. Yes, most occasions and initiatives call for individuals to receive the same designed piece. However, that doesn’t mean you aren’t able to personalize or segment it. Data segmentation and personalization enable you to target your donor or donor segments. For instance, you can have different variations of the stewardship piece, with personalization, if you segment donors by areas they contributed to.
  4. DON’T JUST WAIT UNTIL YOUR FYE. Have you ever thought about incorporating a stewardship campaign into your annual direct marketing plan? You might want to consider how many times per year you are currently thanking donors and how many times you could be thanking donors. Is it once a year? Twice a year? After each time they donate? You can never thank donors too much. Wondering some ways that you can thank your donors? Some clients thank their donors through designed postcards, letters, self-mailers, or other creative direct mail pieces. Connect with us to view samples.
  5. IF YOU ASK THROUGH A CHANNEL, THANK THROUGH THAT CHANNEL. There are many different channels nowadays where donors can be reached. If you ask through a particular channel, you should thank through that channel. For example, if you are sending your donors asks through direct mail, and they expect to hear from you through direct mail, then you should send a thank you through direct mail.

Interested in seeing samples of stewardship pieces?

To sum it all up, stewardship is critical to success. You did so much work identifying and acquiring your donors, you can’t forget one of the most important parts – retaining your donors. By thanking your donors, you’re one step closer to retaining them. They’ll feel like they made an actual impact as they start to build or continue to build an affinity to your organization.

BCG Connect helps clients to identify, acquire, AND retain donors through effective annual direct marketing plans. If you need help implementing stewardship pieces into your plan, or would like to talk about different direct marketing ideas for your organziation to effectively identify, acquire, and retain your donors, connect with us to learn more!

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BCG Staff Writer
Storytelling - What's Your Story?

Influence Donors through Consistent Storytelling

As development professionals, you aim to successfully influence how your audience thinks and feels to get their support for your organization. A key component of reaching and influencing your audience through direct marketing efforts is by storytelling.

Once upon a time in a…

school far away, there lived development professionals who sent appeals after Labor Day.

nonprofit far away, there lived development professionals who were getting appeals ready for their next Giving Day.

healthcare organization far away, there lived development professionals who were starting to think about Giving Tuesday.

No matter what type of organization you’re a part of, having a consistent story for your brand is key.

 No, you don’t have to be Dr. Seuss.

 No, you don’t have to be Nicholas Sparks.

 No, you don’t have to be Stephen King.

 Yes, you do need to have your own story.

One of the first things to ponder is, “How am I going to make sure my story consistently connects through each platform that we send something out?” Well, it all comes back to having a strategic annual giving marketing plan. By having this plan, it’s easy to map out your storyboard and the messages you would like to send throughout the year, the channels you’d like to send them through, and when you plan on sending them.

Storytelling is strategic, especially when it comes to fundraising. It does not simply mean that you must get numerous stories from people saying how the organization had an impact on them and send those out through various channels. This can be a great tactic for some organizations but every organization’s story is different.

Here are some other ideas that might spark your storytelling muse:

Listening: Before developing your story, you need to listen to the stories of your donors. Listening helps you truly understand donors and what parts of your organization are near and dear to their hearts. It can help you align your story with theirs. When crafting an ask with this information in mind, you are more likely to relate to them and convert them to loyal donors. Take the time to listen to a handful of your potential donors and learn about what’s most important to them – you might want to think about incorporating a survey into your campaign, which can allow you to learn a lot more about your donors than you already know.

Values: An organization may have a set of 3-5 values that are core elements that support the vision of the organization. If your focus of the year is on the organization’s core values and mission, think about how you’re going to get that message across throughout the year. An idea could be to feature a different value on each appeal and incorporate a quote or story that correlates with that value. This not only shows how important values are to the organization, but it also enables you to remain consistent throughout the year and strengthen your emotional connection with potential donors.

Photos: One of the most common English idioms is, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Photos can go an extremely long way when storytelling. It gives a visual to the audience of what you want them to see and helps support how you want them to feel. Depending on the type of appeal being sent out, you can incorporate a photo that is indeed worth a thousand words in addition to a powerful message that is consistent with the organization’s story. Photos are a great way of increasing an emotional bond with a potential donor and influencing that person to donate.

You’re probably thinking to yourself, “Wow, this blog post is quite repetitive using the word, ‘Consistency.’” It is! Consistency is vital to incorporating storytelling into your fundraising efforts. When telling your story, remember these three things:

  1. Listen to your donors and create a story for your organization that your donors want to support.
  2. Build an emotional bond with your donors and make your donors feel a certain way when they receive your appeal.
  3. Tell your story consistently throughout the year through creative direct mail appeals.

…And the storytelling fundraisers lived happily ever after!

To learn more about how BCG Connect can help you consistently deliver your story through direct marketing initiatives, connect with us!

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BCG Staff Writer
Stewardship

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! – The Importance of Stewardship

Did you know that Thanksgiving doesn’t only come in November? You might be thinking to yourself, “Huh? Everyone knows that it’s always in November…” Well, stop for a moment and think about Thanksgiving and the strong aura of gratitude that time of year. Thanksgiving is known to be a time of thanks and appreciativeness for what and who you have in your life.

This should not be the only time of year for that feeling, especially when it comes to fundraising professionals.

You should not only be thanking your donors after they donate to your annual fund throughout the year, but also at your fiscal year end. Donors want to know how they made a difference and feel that they are appreciated.

There are different ways that you can implement stewardship ideas into your campaign. The best stewardship campaigns typically have a combination of the following:

1.Direct Mail: Often, organizations send out an impact report or a “Donor Honor Roll” to recognize everyone who contributed to the annual fund. If you’re thinking you want to send an additional direct mail piece or deviate from an impact report thanking donors, you might want to consider sending out a postcard, letter, or self-mailer. Direct mail is a terrific way to incorporate data segmentation and personalize the thank you based on each donor’s contribution.

2. Email: By sending a thank you message via email that remains consistent with the stewardship campaign brand, you can reiterate your appreciation to your donors through another channel.  Email is a great compliment to direct mail.

3. Social Media: Social media is an effective way to thank those donors who are followers. This is typically used for a broader way of saying, “Thank You!” and is less personal than other communications. A great graphic to share alongside the “thank you” text is an infographic that shows results from the annual donations.

4. Video: Video is a strong element that can help strengthen your brand message and it is a powerful way to deliver a thank you. It provides the opportunity to develop an emotional bond between the organization and the donor through influential visuals of the impact donors have made. A video or a link to a video can be distributed through different channels such as your website, direct mail, social media, and email.

An effective way of thinking about your stewardship campaign and the best channel to send a thank you through is: if you ASK through that channel, THANK through that channel.

Take a minute to think about this scenario:

You just got married and received numerous, thoughtful gifts from your wedding guests. The gifts all varied in price but nonetheless, each gift was a gracious gesture.

In this day in age, it’s common to see a broad “thank you” posting on social media from the two getting married, thanking guests for making their day so special. However, it is ALSO typical to receive some sort of thank you through the mail – sometimes they are handwritten; sometimes they are typed; sometimes they are extremely detailed and personalized; sometimes they are more generic.

Relating your fundraising efforts to other life events makes you realize just how important a thank you is.

Now, ask yourself, “Have we made our donors feel valued?”

Always remember that you can never thank someone too much! It shows that person how much of an impact they had on you (and your organization). By showing someone that his/her donation is appreciated, they will start building a loyalty to your organization. You never know… a thank you could make a first time donor a lifetime donor! Don’t let the aura of gratitude only come around Thanksgiving.

Recognize your donors. Praise your donors. Thank your donors.

The growth of your annual fund is in their hands and you have the power to make your donors feel appreciated.

BCG Connect can help you implement your stewardship campaign into your direct marketing efforts and remain consistent with your organization’s brand – connect with us to learn more!

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BCG Staff Writer
Wheelock's Giving Day Case Study

Case Study Download: Wheelock College’s Successful Giving Day

As the end of the fiscal year for many institutions approaches, an integral step to future success is to evaluate what worked this year and what could be improved next year. Planning your annual fund marketing campaign is critical to the success of your institution’s annual fund.

A great way to boost alumni participation and engagement quickly is to incorporate a Giving Day into your overall strategic annual fund plan.

Wheelock College ran a successful inaugural Giving Day in 2016 and hoped to generate more interactions and participation this year. As a small, private institution located in Boston, MA, they aggressively raised their goal from 250 donors in FY16 to 500 in FY17.

Fast forward to April 1st when the giving day was over – Wheelock’s community came together to give over 760 gifts totaling more than $200,000 along with increased participation in every area of their community.

How did Wheelock have such a successful Giving Day? Find out more information below.

“Wheelock Giving Day was a great success this year and BCG’s involvement was invaluable. We received many positive responses to the direct mail pieces — they really stood out from past solicitations. Overall, the campaign surpassed all of our expectations. Thank you!”

Steve Muzrall, Assistant Vice President for Development, Wheelock College

Giving days are just a sliver of an annual fund plan. They require strategic outreach well in advance along with following the giving day. While getting donors acquired through a giving day is great, it’s important to acknowledge that these donors require a subsequent plan. All the outreach before the giving day contributed to the engagement and participation the day of – consistent engagement throughout the year is critical to the success of fundraising.

Fiscal years are coming to a close for many institutions at the end of the month and now more than ever is the time to start thinking about your overall annual fund plan. We know you’re busy. Let us help! To learn more about how to strategically craft your annual fund plan, connect with us and we would be glad to help you!

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BCG Staff Writer
Keep Your Donors

Keep Your Donors – You Earned Them

Welcome to July—a new fiscal year for many organizations, and with that comes new fundraising goals.

Wait, what is that? You still need to close out last year? And you feel overwhelmed doing both at the same time? I get it! That’s a lot to manage at once.

Don’t freak out! Just like I walked you through how to show the impact of a gift in my last blog post, I’m back to help again.

This time: I’m going to help you single task your way through this transitional part of the year so that you can focus on what’s important: keeping your donors.

Tip #1: Focus on donor retention now, so you don’t need to focus on finding new donors later.

Did you know that one of the most cost-effective tools you can focus on to increase funding is donor retention?

What is donor retention, you ask?

Simply, donor retention is a measurement of how many donors continue to donate to your organization year after year.

everyone is talking about donor retention

If you think those rates are really low, you’re right! Organizations that have low donor-retention rates need to continuously find new donors.

Tip #2: Know the numbers. (aka: It costs HOW much to acquire a new donor?!)

what's the big deal?

That’s a huge return on investment! And we all know how hard it is to find a new donor in the first place, right?

Tip #3: Remember the second golden rule of fundraising: you can never thank your donors too many times.

Taking that advice, thank your donors now, thank them again later, and then thank them again. (And again.)

keep your donors

BCG worked with Kimball Union Academy, a private, co-ed, preparatory, boarding school in Meriden, New Hampshire, on their stewardship campaign. At the end of their fiscal year they thanked donors by showing the impact of their gift through specific metrics.

you did it

Looking for more examples of stewardship programs that work? Want to learn more about how BCG can help you keep the spectrum of your donors? Check out our portfolio for more great ideas and contact us to learn more.

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BCG Staff Writer
Fundraising Appeal Letter Hacks

Stand Out From The Crowd(ed Mailbox): 5 Fundraising Appeal Letter Hacks

Add some muscle to your next appeal letter to help it stand out in a crowded mailbox.

During the holiday season, everything that comes into your mailbox, from bills to credit card offers, are adorned in festive colors and glitter. So, it helps to add something special to an appeal letter to ensure that it will stand out from the colorful crowd.

Have your next appeal letter move into the spotlight, no matter the time of year, by including one or more of these strategies:

1. Include Images in the Letter:

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Adding photos to the body of the letter helps to give a face to the story, to the need, and to the reason a donor is giving. Photos also help engage a reader in the letter by helping them make a personal connection to it.

2. Add a Colorful Buck Slip Alongside the Letter:

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This mailing insert, approximately the size of a dollar bill (which is how it gets its name), provides room for additional graphics, images, and appeal information that can help enumerate the impact of a donation.

3. Use Color and Unique Typography in the Body of the Letter:

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By adding color and typographical emphasis, the reader can easily find the most important parts of your appeal letter. This also helps to break apart larger blocks of text to be easier to read and thus keeps their attention longer.

4. Add Artwork or a Tagline to the Outer Envelope:

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The envelope is an important part of the overall appeal package, but is so often overlooked (both during the design process and once it’s in the mailbox). The design of it helps to encourage the donor to open it.

5. Personalize the letter by including:

  • The recipient’s last gift amount: this helps to remind the donor of how much they previously gave and also gives them a point of reference for another gift.
  • A targeted ask amount: by personalizing the appeal letter with a specific ask for each letter, rather than a general ask, this helps to give the donor an understanding of how they can specifically help.
  • The recipient’s class year: by referencing a specific year, you help remind them of their experiences at the school and the reasons for giving back.
  • Add a P.S. line that repeats the call to action: use this important part of the letter to summarize the entire message – the ask, deadline, and call to action – so that when the reader’s eyes go to the bottom of the page, they have all the information.

What techniques have you used? These 5 ideas are just some of the wonderful strategies available. What have you found to be helpful?

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BCG Staff Writer
Bentley University's Philanthropy Week

Spotlight: Bentley University’s Philanthropy Week

#bentleygives
Bentley created a week of on-campus activities, all centered on philanthropy.

For 2015, this week of events was creatively branded with the slogan, “Bentley Runs on Philanthropy,” a spinoff of the Dunkin’ Donuts “America Runs on Dunkin'” slogan. This played well into the week’s events, which were full of coffee and running.

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Above: Branding the campaign: “Bentley Runs on Philanthropy”

Calling all coffee lovers and do-gooders…
To kick off the giving week, students were given free coffee and donuts. Then, it was their turn to “pay-it-forward” by buying a friend’s coffee. Next, they were asked to donate to Relay for Life with spare, coffee-cup change – every penny counts!

This all led up to the final event – the “Neon Run,” an organized race where students dressed to match the neon theme in glowing garb. It was a chance to show their school spirit, run with friends, and of course enjoy a cup of coffee (waiting for them at the finish line). This was a way to get students involved with supporting the Bentley Annual Fund – their registration fees were donated to the Annual Fund.

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It just goes to show – giving back can be fun too!

Success!
Bentley has had great success with this strategy over the past couple of years. In addition to getting students involved in their annual fund even before they become “young alumni”, Philanthropy Week continually:

  • Raises awareness of the Bentley Annual Fund – teaching students why it’s important to give back
  • Fosters a philanthropic culture among students
  • Provides a fun incentive for students to make a donation

View complete portfolio of event materials (crafted by Boston Color Graphics) here.

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BCG Staff Writer
Data Visualization

Data Visualization

Data is abuzz in the fundraising world right now. We oftentimes have the data at our fingertips, but how to use it properly is the trick. What’s the key to this trick? We were curious too, so our team watched The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s fundraising webinar on Data Visualization.

Here’s some quick tips we took away that help to make data most impactful:

  • Know your audience: Who are they? What do you want to tell them?
  • Tell a story: Make it funny and memorable with infographics, charts, and visual metaphors.
  • Keep it simple: Simple images with limited text make the biggest impact. Don’t overload your audience with too much information!
  • Make it interactive: Clickable or sharable infographics will draw your audience in.
  • Balance esthetics with substance: Choose data carefully. Make sure it’s visual and useful.
  • Don’t make the reader work hard: Use trend lines, colors, symbols, and visual aids strategically to aid scanning ability.

See how some of our clients are displaying their data in impact reports, appeals, and stewardship letters HERE.

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BCG Staff Writer